And he made good on his promise.
It only took him 2 years to do it and yes he had a lot of help from D WADE
Shaq on verge of fulfilling promise of championship
June 3, 2006
By Ethan Skolnick
Special to CBS SportsLine.com
MIAMI — Upon his 1995 introduction on the deck of Micky Arison’s Carnival Imagination, Pat Riley said he envisioned a championship parade, but one unfortunate event after another killed plans for such a party.
So the celebration on July 21, 2004, was the closest South Florida had come. That’s when Shaquille O’Neal hopped out of an 18-wheel diesel truck featuring his giant mug, armed with a Super Soaker, a goofy smile and a vow to belatedly fulfill Riley’s vision.
| Shaquille O’Neal has 28 points and 16 rebounds in Miami’s victory. (Getty Images)
“Remember this,” O’Neal announced that day. “I’m going to bring a championship to Miami. I promise!”
He told the “beautiful” people that he would add more energy to the city, and that it would have no regrets: “Get your tickets now. Buy cable now. Get your jerseys now. Pull your boats up to the docking stations now. Bring your Sea-Doos now. If you can’t afford a Sea-Doo, get a raft. If you can’t afford a raft, go to Wal-Mart and get the blow-up raft like I got at my house.”
Friday, Miami finally got to see that he was serious. Friday, Miami got a glimpse of the O’Neal of old, instead of an old O’Neal. Friday, behind a once-again dominant center, the Miami Heat finally got past the Detroit Pistons 95-78 and Miami got within four NBA Finals wins of that parade.
In the clinching Game 6, O’Neal got to fulfill several promises.
“I promised my kids I wouldn’t lose today,” O’Neal said in the postgame locker room.
He promised his father he would go stronger.
He made promises to his teammates, too.
Dwyane Wade had spent the morning at the hospital, rehydrating, recuperating, sipping tea and applying vapor rub.
“He just told me to come in and pace myself,” Wade said. “He said the guys are ready today so you ain’t got to do it all today — just pace yourself.”
Jason Williams, Antoine Walker and Udonis Haslem had spent much of the series struggling. Heat fans had spent the past 44 hours worrying, wondering if this would be just another cruel disappointment.
Nothing to stress about, as it turned out.
O’Neal: 28 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks, countless shot changes and tireless effort.
One clinching victory.
Four wins to go.
“The job is not done,” O’Neal said.
Only the Pistons are, because of O’Neal’s job exceptionally well done. They had eliminated him in two successive postseasons, but Friday they had no answer. He had a block before Detroit had a basket. He had a consistent presence in the defensive lane, enough to keep making Chauncey Billups think twice and pull back.
“Shaq took away a lot of easy shots,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said, after watching his team play chuck and chase, with Billups missing 11 of 14 and Rasheed Wallace clanking on 8 of 12.
And O’Neal got a lot of easy ones himself, either on hooks or dunks after getting deep position, or on putbacks. He had 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting by halftime, and consequently the Heat had an 11-point lead, energizing the crowd and his teammates while calming everyone’s fears.
Then he had one spectacular final sequence to send the Pistons griping into the offseason.
He had just committed a turnover. A 20-point lead had shrunk to 13. Richard Hamilton had finally gotten loose, scoring 12 straight Piston points. Then Hamilton had a steal, and a chance to cut the lead back to 11 with six minutes left.
O’Neal pinned his layup by the basket, then recovered the rebound, then rumbled down the floor, snatched a Williams pass and dunked.
“Without him, we probably wouldn’t be there tonight,” Riley said.
Because of him, and Williams’ signature game in a Heat uniform (hitting his first 10 shots), they will be in Dallas or Phoenix on Thursday.
Either opponent will present problems for O’Neal, because of styles that tend to take him out of the action. Each was 2-0 against Miami this season. But that’s another day’s worry.
“I just told the guys that they can come to me, whenever they need a bucket just come to me,” O’Neal said. “For the first five or six minutes I actually didn’t touch the ball and I got a little worried, but everyone else was playing so well, I just became a role player until they came to me.”
He didn’t come toward the Eastern Conference trophy after the game was over, just as he has refused to come speak at the podium until he reached the NBA Finals. That wasn’t all he promised, after all, and it isn’t how he will stamp his legacy. He wants a fourth championship, which would be one more than contemporary superstar Tim Duncan, and now he has his shot.
Miami has its shot.
He is 34.
Who knows when each will get another?
“He’s in a great flow right now,” said Alonzo Mourning, the former rival turned friend, taken one spot behind O’Neal in the 1992 draft. “His timing is there. He’s in great health. We’re gonna ride his shoulders all the way to the top.”
No need. Even after the city’s climbed on, there’s still plenty of room on that raft.